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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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Is the continuance in any design, state, opinion, or course of action. The perseverance of the saints is their continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory. This doctrine has afforded considerable matter for controversy between the Calvinists and Arminians. We shall briefly here state the arguments and objections. And, first, the perfections of God are considered as strong arguments to prove this doctrine. God, as a Being possessed of infinite love, faithfulness, wisdom, and power, can hardly be supposed to suffer any of his people finally to fall into perdition. This would be a reflection on his attributes, and argue him to be worse than a common father of his family. His love to his people is unchangeable, and therefore they cannot be the objects of it at one time and not at another, John 13:1 . Zephaniah 3:17 . Jeremiah 31:3 . His faithfulness to them and to his promise is not founded upon their merit, but his own will and goodness: this, therefore, cannot be violated, Malachi 3:6 . Numb. 23: 19. His wisdom foresees every obstacle in the way, and is capable of removing it, and directing them into the right path. It would be a reflection on his wisdom, after choosing a right end, not to choose right means in accomplishing the same, Jeremiah 10:6-7 . His power is insuperable, and is absolutely and perpetually displayed in their preservation and protection, 1 Peter 1:5 .

2. Another argument to prove this doctrine is their union to Christ, and what he has done for them. They are said to be chosen in him, Ephesians 1:4 . united to him, Ephesians 1:23 . the purchase of his death, Romans 8:34 . Titus 2:14; the objects of his intercession, Romans 5:10 . Romans 8:34 . 1 John 2:1-2 . Now if there be a possibility of their finally falling, then this choice, this union, his death and intercession, may all be in vain, and rendered abortive; an idea as derogatory to the divine glory, and as dishonourable to Jesus Christ, as possibly can be.

3. It is argued, from the work of the Spirit, which is to communicate grace and strength equal to the day, Philippians 1:6 . 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 . If, indeed, divine grace were dependent on the will of man, if by his own power he had brought himself into a state of grace, then it might follow that he might relapse into an opposite state when that power at any time was weakened; but as the perseverance of the saints is not produced by any native principles in themselves, but by the agency of the Holy Spirit, enlightening, confirming, and establishing them, of course, they must persevere, or otherwise it would be a reflection on this Divine agent, Romans 8:9 . 1 Corinthians 6:11 . John 4:14 . John 16:14 .

4. Lastly, the declarations and promises of Scripture are very numerous in favour of this doctrine, Job 17:9 . Psalms 94:14 . Psalms 125:1-5 : Jeremiah 32:40 . John 10:28 . John 17:12 . 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 . 1 Peter 1:5 . Proverbs 4:18 . all which could not be true, if this doctrine were false. There are objections, however, to this doctrine, which we must state.

1. There are various threatenings denounced against those who apostatize, Ezekiel 3:20 . Hebrews 6:3; Hebrews 6:6 . Psalms 125:3-5 . Ezekiel 18:24 . To this it is answered, that some of these texts do not so much as suppose the falling away of a truly good man; and to all of them, it is said, that they only show what would be the consequence if such should fall away; but cannot prove that it ever in fact happens.

2. It is foretold as a future event that some should fall away, Matthew 24:12-13 . John 15:6 . Matthew 13:20-21 . To the first of these passages it is answered, that their love might be said to wax cold without totally ceasing; or there might have been an outward zeal and show of love where there never was a true faith. To the second it is answered, that persons may be said to be in Christ only by an external profession, or mere members of the visible church, John 15:2 . Matthew 13:47-48 . As to Matthew, ch. 13: 5: 20, 21. it is replied, that this may refer to the joy with which some may entertain the offers of pardon, who never, after all, attentively considered them.

3. It is objected that many have in fact fallen away, as David, Solomon, Peter, Alexander, Hymeneus, &c. to which it is answered, that David, Solomon, and Peter's fall, were not total; and as to the others, there is no proof of their ever being true Christians.

4. It is urged, that this doctrine supersedes the use of means, and renders exhortations unnecessary. To which it may be answered, that perseverance itself implies the use of means, and that the means are equally appointed as well as the end: nor has it ever been found that true Christians have rejected them. They consider exhortations to be some of the means they are to attend to in order to promote their holiness: Christ and his apostles, though they often asserted this doctrine, yet reproved, exhorted, and made use of means.


5. Lastly, it is objected that this doctrine gives great encouragement to carnal security and presumptuous sin. To which it is answered, that this doctrine, like many others, may be abused, by hypocrites, but cannot be so by those who are truly serious, it being the very nature of grace to lead to righteousness, Tit.ii. 10, 12. Their knowledge leads to veneration; their love animates to duty; their faith purifies the heart; their gratitude excites to obedience; yea, all their principles have a tendency to set before them the evil of sin, and the beauty of holiness.

See Witby and Gill of the Five Points; Cole on the Sovereignty of God; Doddridge's Lectures, lec. 179; Turretini Comp. Theologiae; loc. 14. p. 156; OEconomia Witsii, lib. 3: cap. 13; Toplady's Works, p. 476, vol. v; Ridgley's Body of Div. qu. 79.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Perseverance'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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